CSIRO Publishing blank image blank image blank image blank imageBooksblank image blank image blank image blank imageJournalsblank image blank image blank image blank imageAbout Usblank image blank image blank image blank imageShopping Cartblank image blank image blank image You are here: Journals > International Journal of Wildland Fire   
International Journal of Wildland Fire
  Published on behalf of the International Association of Wildland Fire
blank image Search
blank image blank image
blank image
  Advanced Search

Journal Home
About the Journal
Editorial Structure
Online Early
Current Issue
Just Accepted
All Issues
Special Issues
Research Fronts
Sample Issue
20-Year Author Index
For Authors
General Information
Submit Article
Author Instructions
Open Access
For Referees
Referee Guidelines
Review an Article
For Subscribers
Subscription Prices
Customer Service
Print Publication Dates

blue arrow e-Alerts
blank image
Subscribe to our Email Alert or RSS feeds for the latest journal papers.

red arrow Connect with CP
blank image
facebook twitter LinkedIn

red arrow Connect with IAWF
blank image
facebook twitter LinkedIn


Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 21(8)

Resilience of a eucalypt forest woody understorey to long-term (34–55 years) repeated burning in subtropical Australia

Tom Lewis A B C D and Valerie J. Debuse A B C

A Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Agri-Science Queensland, University of the Sunshine Coast, Locked Bag 4, Maroochydore District Centre, Qld 4558, Australia.
B The Centre for Innovative Conservation Strategies, Griffith University, Gold Coast Campus, PMB 50, Gold Coast Mail Centre, Qld 9726, Australia.
C University of the Sunshine Coast, Sippy Downs Drive, Sippy Downs, Qld 4556, Australia.
D Corresponding author. Email: tom.lewis@daff.qld.gov.au

International Journal of Wildland Fire 21(8) 980-991 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WF11003
Submitted: 10 January 2011  Accepted: 20 March 2012   Published: 30 July 2012

PDF (211 KB) $25
 Supplementary Material
 Export Citation

We investigated the effects of annual burning since 1952, triennial burning since 1973, fire exclusion since 1946 and infrequent wildfire (one fire in 61 years) on woody understorey vegetation in a dry sclerophyll eucalypt forest, south-eastern Queensland, Australia. We determined the influence of these treatments, and other site variables (rainfall, understorey density, topsoil C : N ratio, tree basal area, distance to watercourse and burn coverage) on plant taxa density, richness and composition. The richness of woody understorey taxa 0–1 m in height was not affected by burning treatments, but richness of woody plants 1–7.5 m in height was lower in the annually burnt treatment than in the triennially burnt treatment from 1989 to 2007. Fire frequency and other site variables explained 34% of the variation in taxa composition (three taxon groups and 10 species), of which 33% of the explained variance was explained by fire treatment and 46% was explained by other site variables. Annual burning between 1974 and 1993 was associated with lower understorey densities mainly due to reduced densities of eucalypts 1–7.5 m in height. Triennial burning during the same period was associated with higher densities of eucalypts 0–7.5 m in height relative to the annually burnt and unburnt treatments. Most woody taxa persisted in the frequently burnt treatments through resprouting mechanisms (e.g. lignotuberous regeneration), and fire patchiness associated with low-intensity burning was also found to be important. Persistence of plants <1 m tall demonstrates the resilience of woody taxa to repeated burning in this ecosystem, although they mainly exist in a suppressed growth state under annual burning.

Additional keywords: fire regimes, plant composition, plant density, regeneration, richness, vegetation structure.


Birk EM, Bridges RG (1989) Recurrent fires and fuel accumulation in even-aged blackbutt (Eucalyptus pilularis) forests. Forest Ecology and Management 29, 59–79.
CrossRef |

Bond WJ, Keeley JE (2005) Fire as a global ‘herbivore’: the ecology and evolution of flammable ecosystems. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 20, 387–394.
CrossRef |

Borcard D, Legendre P, Drapeau P (1992) Partialling out the spatial component of ecological variation. Ecology 73, 1045–1055.
CrossRef |

Bostock PD, Holland AE (2007) ‘Census of the Queensland Flora 2007.’ (Queensland Herbarium, Environmental Protection Agency: Brisbane)

Bowen BJ, Pate JS (1993) The significance of root starch in post-fire shoot recovery of the resprouter Stirlingia latifoloa R. BR. (Proteaceae). Annals of Botany 72, 7–16.
CrossRef |

Bradstock RA, Kenny BJ (2003) An application of plant functional types to fire management in a conservation reserve in south-eastern Australia. Journal of Vegetation Science 14, 345–354.
CrossRef |

Bradstock RA, Myerscough PJ (1988) The survival and population response to frequent fires of two woody resprouters Banksia serrata and Isopogon anemonifolius. Australian Journal of Botany 36, 415–431.
CrossRef |

Bradstock RA, Tozer MG, Keith DA (1997) Effects of high frequency fire on floristic composition and abundance in a fire-prone heathland near Sydney. Australian Journal of Botany 45, 641–655.
CrossRef |

Cary GJ, Morrison DA (1995) Effects of fire frequency on plant species composition of sandstone communities in the Sydney region: combinations of interfire intervals. Australian Journal of Ecology 20, 418–426.
CrossRef |

Debuse VJ, House APN, Taylor DW, Swift SA (2009) Landscape structure influences tree density patterns in fragmented woodlands in semi-arid eastern Australia. Austral Ecology 34, 621–635.
CrossRef |

Fairfax R, Fensham R, Butler D, Quinn K, Sigley B, Holman J (2009) Effects of multiple fires on tree invasion in montane grasslands. Landscape Ecology 24, 1363–1373.
CrossRef |

Fensham RJ, Bowman DMJS (1992) Stand structure and the influence of overwood on regeneration in tropical eucalypt forest on Melville Island. Australian Journal of Botany 40, 335–352.
CrossRef |

Fensham RJ, Fairfax RJ (2006) Can burning restrict eucalypt invasion on grassy balds? Austral Ecology 31, 317–325.
CrossRef |

Fensham RJ, Fairfax RJ, Butler DW, Bowman DMJS (2003) Effects of fire and drought in a tropical eucalypt savanna colonized by rain forest. Journal of Biogeography 30, 1405–1414.
CrossRef |

Fensham RJ, Fairfax RJ, Archer SR (2005) Rainfall, land use and woody vegetation cover change in semi-arid Australian savanna. Journal of Ecology 93, 596–606.
CrossRef |

Fernandes PM, Botelho HS (2003) A review of prescribed burning effectiveness in fire hazard reduction. International Journal of Wildland Fire 12, 117–128.
CrossRef |

Fox MD, Fox BJ (1986) The effect of fire frequency on the structure and floristic composition of a woodland understorey. Australian Journal of Ecology 11, 77–85.
CrossRef |

Freckleton RP (2004) The problems of prediction and scale in applied ecology: the example of fire as a management tool. Journal of Applied Ecology 41, 599–603.
CrossRef |

Gignoux J, Lahoreau G, Julliard R, Barot S (2009) Establishment and early persistence of tree seedlings in an annually burned savanna. Journal of Ecology 97, 484–495.
CrossRef |

Gill AM (1981) Adaptive responses of Australian vascular plant species to fires. In ‘Fire and the Australian Biota’. (Eds AM Gill, RH Groves, IR Noble) pp. 243–272. (Australian Academy of Science: Canberra, ACT)

Gill AM (1999) Bushfires and biodiversity: an Australia-wide perspective on plant-species changes after a fire event. Environment Australia Biodiversity Technical Paper Number 1, pp. 9–53. Available at http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/publications/technical/fire/pubs/technical-fire.pdf [Verified 20 February 2012]

Gill AM, Bradstock RA (1995) Extinction of biota by fires. In ‘Conserving Biodiversity: Threats and Solutions’. (Eds RA Bradstock, TD Auld, DA Keith, RT Kingsford, D Lunney, DP Siversten) pp. 309–322. (Surrey Beatty and Sons: Sydney)

Guinto DF, House APN, Xu Z, Saffigna PG (1999) Impacts of repeated fuel reduction burning on tree growth, mortality and recruitment in mixed-species eucalypt forests of south-east Queensland, Australia. Forest Ecology and Management 115, 13–27.
CrossRef |

Guinto DF, Xu Z, House APN, Saffigna PG (2000) Assessment of N2 fixation by understorey acacias in recurrently burnt eucalypt forests of subtropical Australia using 15N isotope dilution techniques. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 30, 112–121.

Guinto DF, Xu ZH, House APN, Saffigna PG (2001) Soil chemical properties and forest floor nutrients under repeated prescribed-burning in eucalypt forests of south-east Queensland, Australia. New Zealand Journal of Forestry Science 31, 170–187.

Henderson MK, Keith DA (2002) Correlation of burning and grazing indicators with composition of woody understorey flora of dells in a temperate eucalypt forest. Austral Ecology 27, 121–131.
CrossRef |

Henry NB (1961) ‘Complete Protection versus Prescribed Burning in the Maryborough Hardwoods.’ (Queensland Forest Service: Brisbane, Qld)

Hodgkinson KC, Harrington GN, Griffin GF, Noble JC, Young MD (1990) Management of vegetation with fire. In ‘Management of Australia’s Rangelands’. (Eds GN Harrington, AD Wilson, MD Young) pp. 141–156. (CSIRO Publishing: Melbourne)

Hoffmann WA (1998) Post-burn reproduction of woody plants in a neotropical savanna: the relative importance of sexual and vegetative reproduction. Journal of Applied Ecology 35, 422–433.
CrossRef |

Hoffmann WA (2002) Direct and indirect effects of fire on radial growth of cerrado savanna trees. Journal of Tropical Ecology 18, 137–142.
CrossRef |

Hoffmann WA, Solbrig OT (2003) The role of topkill in the differential response of savanna woody species to fire. Forest Ecology and Management 180, 273–286.
CrossRef |

Hunt MA, Unwin GL, Beadle CL (1999) Effects of naturally regenerated Acacia dealbata on the productivity of a Eucalyptus nitens plantation in Tasmania, Australia. Forest Ecology and Management 117, 75–85.
CrossRef |

Jeffrey S, Carter J, Moodie K, Beswick A (2001) Using spatial interpolation to construct a comprehensive archive of Australian climate data. Environmental Modelling & Software 16, 309–330.
CrossRef |

Keith DA (1996) Fire-driven extinction of plant populations: a synthesis of theory and review of evidence from Australian vegetation. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 116, 37–77.

Legendre P (1993) Spatial autocorrelation: trouble or new paradigm? Ecology 74, 1659–1673.
CrossRef |

Lemon PC (1946) Prescribed burning in relation to grazing in the longleaf-slash pine type. Journal of Forestry 44, 115–117.

Lewis T, Reif M, Prendergast E, Tran C (2012) The effect of long-term repeated burning and fire exclusion on above- and below-ground blackbutt (Eucalyptus pilularis) forest vegetation assemblages. Austral Ecology
CrossRef |

Lyon J, Gross NM (2005) Patterns of plant diversity and plant–environmental relationships across three riparian corridors. Forest Ecology and Management 204, 267–278.
CrossRef |

McElhinny C, Gibbons P, Brack C (2006) An objective and quantitative methodology for constructing an index of stand structural complexity. Forest Ecology and Management 235, 54–71.
CrossRef |

Nieuwenhuis A (1987) The effect of fire frequency on the sclerophyll vegetation of the West Head, New South Wales. Australian Journal of Ecology 12, 373–385.
CrossRef |

Noble IR, Slatyer RO (1981) Concepts and models of succession in vascular plant communities subject to recurrent fire. In ‘Fire and the Australian Biota’. (Eds AM Gill, RH Groves, IR Noble) pp. 311–335. (Australian Academy of Science: Canberra, ACT)

Ooi MK, Whelan RJ, Auld TD (2006) Persistence of obligate-seeding species at the population scale: effects of fire intensity, fire patchiness and long fire-free intervals. International Journal of Wildland Fire 15, 261–269.
CrossRef |

Penman TD, Kavanagh RP, Binns DL, Melick DR (2007) Patchiness of prescribed burns in dry sclerophyll eucalypt forests in south-eastern Australia. Forest Ecology and Management 252, 24–32.
CrossRef |

Penman TD, Binns DL, Shiels RJ, Allen RM, Kavanagh RP (2008) Changes in understorey plant species richness following logging and prescribed burning in shrubby dry sclerophyll forests of south-eastern Australia. Austral Ecology 33, 197–210.
CrossRef |

Penman TD, Christie FJ, Andersen AN, Bradstock RA, Cary GJ, Henderson MK, Price O, Tran C, Wardle GM, Williams RJ, York A (2011a) Prescribed burning: how can it work to conserve the things we value? International Journal of Wildland Fire 20, 721–733.
CrossRef |

Penman TD, Binns DL, Shiels RJ, Allen RM, Penman SH (2011b) Hidden effects of forest management practices: responses of a soil-stored seed bank to logging and repeated prescribed fire. Austral Ecology 36,
CrossRef |

Russell MJ, Roberts BR (1996) Effects of four low-intensity burns over 14 years on the floristics of a blackbutt (Eucalyptus pilularis) forest in southern Queensland. Australian Journal of Botany 44, 315–329.
CrossRef | CAS |

Russell-Smith J, Whitehead PJ, Cook GD, Hoare JL (2003) Response of eucalyptus-dominated savanna to frequent fires: lessons from Munmarlary, 1973–1996. Ecological Monographs 73, 349–375.
CrossRef |

Sharp BR, Bowman D (2004) Patterns of long-term woody vegetation change in a sandstone-plateau savanna woodland, Northern Territory, Australia. Journal of Tropical Ecology 20, 259–270.
CrossRef |

Sneeuwjagt R (2008) Prescribed burning: how effective is it in the control of large forest fires? Available at http://www.royalcommission.vic.gov.au/getdoc/e9e5a53e-5406-4f94-977f-7e7d05ffaf46/WIT.135.001.0099 [Verified 2 February 2012]

Spencer RJ, Baxter GS (2006) Effects of fire on the structure and composition of open eucalypt forests. Austral Ecology 31, 638–646.
CrossRef |

ter Braak CJF, Šmilauer P (2002) ‘CANOCO Reference manual and CanoDraw for Windows User’s Guide: Software for Canonical Community Ordination (Version 4.5).’ (Biometris, Wageningen University and Research Centre: Wageningen, the Netherlands)

Unwin GL (1989) Structure and composition of the abrupt rainforest boundary in the Herberton Highland, north Queensland. Australian Journal of Botany 37, 413–428.
CrossRef |

Walters JR, House APN, Doley D (2005) Water and nutrient availabilities do not affect lignotuber growth and sprouting ability of three eucalypt species of south-eastern Queensland. Australian Journal of Botany 53, 251–257.
CrossRef |

Watson P, Wardell-Johnson G (2004) Fire frequency and time-since-fire effects on the open-forest and woodland flora of Girraween National Park, south-east Queensland, Australia. Austral Ecology 29, 225–236.
CrossRef |

Watson PJ, Bradstock RA, Morris C (2009) Fire frequency influences composition and structure of the shrub layer in an Australian subcoastal temperate grassy woodland. Austral Ecology 34, 218–232.
CrossRef |

Werner PA, Franklin DC (2010) Resprouting and mortality of juvenile eucalypts in an Australian savanna: impacts of fire season and annual sorghum. Australian Journal of Botany 58, 619–628.

Whelan RJ (1995) ‘The Ecology of Fire.’ (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK)

Whelan RJ, Rodgerson L, Dickman CR, Sutherland EF (2002) Critical life-cycles of plants and animals: developing a process-based understanding of population changes in fire-prone landscapes. In ‘Flammable Australia: the Fire Regimes and Biodiversity of a Continent’. (Eds RA Bradstock, JE Williams, AM Gill) pp. 94–124. (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK)

Wittkuhn RS, McCaw L, Wills AJ, Robinson R, Andersen AN, Van Heurck P, Farr J, Liddelow G, Cranfield R (2011) Variation in fire interval sequences has minimal effects on species richness and composition in fire-prone landscapes of south-west Western Australia. Forest Ecology and Management 261, 965–978.
CrossRef |

Subscriber Login

Legal & Privacy | Contact Us | Help


© CSIRO 1996-2015